Although the cause of mental illnesses remains an enigma to the universe, our mental health disorders join “nature” and “nurture” together, since they evolve from both of these so-called “opposites.” The nature versus nurture argument theorizes that our intelligence and personality traits come from our genetics in contrast to having these factors originate from our experiences and the world around us. One can argue that this debate parallels the answers to our mental health. It is clear that because of the many misunderstandings people have about mental illness, there can be some unnecessary blame placed on those with mental health issues, but that should not be the case, given the fact that it is not their fault.
It isn’t really nature versus nurture but nature and nurture that create the paradox leading to the human being’s mind. Take selective and traumatic mutism as an example. A child with selective mutism has a “genetic predisposition to anxiety,” which hinders their growth and causes other mental problems in the future. The traumatic mutism comes from the child’s either witnessing or being a victim of an event that forces them to become mute. The methods the world uses to cope with these victims usually involve social isolation, unwanted pressure, and misunderstandings. This suggests that nature is nurture, and vice versa. Our genes have an impact on the environments we experience, leading to certain unpredictable changes in our surroundings. The same can be said for a person’s environment, altering the degree to which various genes are expressed, which then changes the brain’s physical structure and normal activity.
Some would argue that mental illnesses like depression and anxiety are just a phase and it’s our fault we get them in the first place. Many question the issue of mental health. In today's age, humans question the authenticity of our minds and the people affected by the poison in their minds cloak them in. They may ask, “How does someone get a mental illness?”, “Is it a chronic disorder?” or “Is it all in the person’s head?”. Those questions then turn to doubt and bring forth the unreasonable blame forced upon others. Some might argue that people say they are mentally ill for attention and that they’re exposing their problems for others to see. The idea of “playing the victim” gets put forth a lot when others don’t see mental illness as a real problem.
Even worse, social media has a big impact on today’s society. As cases of cyberbullying or stalking become more frequent, this can take a toll on a person’s mental health. Bullying, in general, has been seen as a factor that damages children’s mental well-being. It’s a way people deal with the factors of mental illness that they can’t comprehend in others. It’s sad looking at how society has formed its civilians to act in situations like these.
The truth is mental illnesses, such as depression, anxiety, and schizophrenia, can be acquired from genetics, exposure to toxins, unpleasant events, certain negative living conditions, and so on. The reasons are not definitively known, but scientists have noticed differences in the thickness and thinness of the brain’s cortex areas (which regulate emotions, visual recognition, fear circuitry, etc.) in those with depression and anxiety compared to a perfectly healthy person. Mental illness is not a chronic disorder per se, but those living with a mental disorder will never “get over” it completely. No one is trying to “play the victim” or expose their problems for “attention.” Emotions experienced by the victim of mental illness are not imagined, because they are very real to that person. It’s important to remember that mental disorders are not made-up ailments but valid medical illnesses.
Significant research has been conducted in relation to people’s behaviors and thoughts when dealing with the “unheard-of.” A recent interview with Paul Bloom, a psychology professor from Yale, explains that the origin of human cruelty is dehumanization of other people. Because of the lack of information we have on mental illness, the human tendency is to fear the unknown, resulting in this dehumanization that negatively affects the victims of mental illnesses. An experiment in Australia, during 1996 and early 1997, interviewed 1,200 people of ages 14 to 24 regarding mental health. When asked to describe mental illness, they generally expressed thoughts of people being locked up, crazy, out of touch with reality, unable to cope, or having something wrong with their brains. While some of this may not be intentional, the social rejection of mental illness can cause a plummet in self-esteem.
There is also the issue of social stigmatization when it comes to the populace who need help. Stigmatization is a prevalent issue when speaking of mental illness; prejudice and judgment are very common. It forces the victim to feel ashamed of what is not in their control. This stigma prevents people from getting the proper treatment they deserve. The name-calling, discrimination, and blame all worsen every aspect of a person’s mental health. This is why people should educate themselves and be mindful of how they are treating one another. They should help support and build each other’s self-esteem, and address any media that falsely make ignorant comments about mental health that can really hurt others. Although the stigma has significantly decreased throughout these past few years, it is still a problem people face from time to time.
Many are afraid of what is unknown, making it easy to understand why the mentally ill suffer so much at the conflicted hands of their own race. This dates back to older times, when even then the mentally ill were not seen as people with problems. Back then, patients were seen as “sensational scientific discoveries” or “pathological sciences.” Rather than dealing with the problems personally with the patient, doctors used strange treatments to address what they thought were demonic possessions and body and spirit imbalances. By the 17th century, it became common to put people in asylums or isolation and use the ice water bath treatment. Other times, doctors used insulin coma therapy to put them in induced comas in hopes of lowering their blood pressure because of the belief that insulin fluctuation would change the functions of the brain. It was more dangerous experiment than proper treatment. Now, doctors utilize therapy and many more methods because of the numerous deaths that occurred through the outdated treatments.
It can be hard to find work, be in a steady relationship, or have a balanced social life when dealing with mental illness. It’s reasonable to say that everyone just wants to live happy lives, but they can’t always, because of our broken mental health system. The arguments that state otherwise don’t really go into detail about the fact that mental health issues come from both our DNA and our general public — not just from thin air or our imaginations. It’s all a constant reoccurring spiral. It’s not our fault we “become another casualty of society,” just as the group Sum 41 mentions in their song “Fat Lip.” It’s not our fault we were born with a chemical brain imbalance, nor is it our fault we can’t control our subconscious. Because criticism is all this world revolves around, we are all scared people caught between the clash of our inner and outer selves. But, when will it be enough? When will those with mental illness be recognized for all their efforts and heartache for just surviving another day? When will we stop seeing news of self-inflicted deaths, which are later followed by deceitful words of those who knew nothing? It’s not okay to ignore the way things are going, which is why we should understand that mental illness is not our fault.
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Keesha Joseph is in the ninth grade at Quisqueya Christian School in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. She loves reading and writing both stories and poetry, and music is her second life. Keesha also plays volleyball with an amazing team and loves watching anime.
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